Joseph Hughes

“Joseph Hughes: Works on Paper – Four Decades – 1970s – 2000s”

December 5, 2010 – January 16, 2011

Press Release | Images | Essay | Press | Resume

PRESS RELEASE

Some Walls is pleased to present four decades of works on paper by San Francisco artist Joseph Hughes from December 5, 2010 – January 16, 2010.

During his five decade painting career Hughes, whose work has often been seen in the context of Radical Color Painting, has consistently produced works on paper in pursuit of a profoundly visual, emotional, and intelligent experience of color, light, and space.

Spanning four decades, this exhibition, Joseph Hughes: Works on Paper – Four Decades – 1970s – 2000s, the works presented are personal icons for believers in the transcendent experience of color and its role in exploring the reaches of our psychological and spiritual nature. They call for and support our discovery of self and other via observation, conjecture, intuition, and reason. In experiencing these paintings we find an ideal—an archetype for a way to look, think, and feel.

Recent solo exhibitions include: Bergner + Job Galerie, Mainz, Germany; HDG Gallery, Wheeling, WV; George Lawson Gallery, San Francisco, CA; and Takada Gallery, San Francisco, CA.

Collections include: Kolumba Museum, Cologne, Germany; Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA; Antal-Lusztig Collection, Debrecen, Hungary; Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA; C.G. Jung Institutes, Los Angeles and San Francisco, CA.

See images, an essay, and biography.

Some Walls is a curatorial and writing art project in a private home in Oakland, California. Some Walls is open by appointment only. View the exhibition online at somewalls.com. To schedule a visit, or for more information, please contact Chris Ashley at info@somewalls.com.

Previous exhibitions at Some Walls:

 

IMAGES

 

ESSAY

During his five decade painting career, Joseph Hughes, whose work has for some time been situated in the context of Radical Color Painting, but which is also clearly quite contemporary abstraction, has continually produced works on paper in pursuit of a profoundly visual, emotional, and intellectual experience of color, light, and space. However, unlike many artists, about whom the label "works on paper" brings to mind drawing, something perhaps less than a complete art work but rather a study or preparatory exercise for canvases, Hughes’ pieces are actually fully-realized, stand-alone paintings. In fact, some of his works on paper are larger than some of his canvases. Among painters it is rare to find in a single artist’s oeuvre a committed equal emphasis on the painted surface of a canvas and a work on paper.

Looked at over decades, one can see in Hughes’ art recurring ways of applying paint and handling color. The paint is fairly liquid, whether watercolor or more fluid acrylic, and is applied to paper that is vertical, often attached to the wall, rather than flat on a table where it might behave more predictably by spreading, pooling, or being absorbed. Gravity is a partner, and downward-flowing fields, streams, and rivulets of color are set in motion and carefully caressed, nudged, diverted, or blocked. Although each work’s palette is intense and tends towards close relatives and neighbors—red to brown in one, blue to green in another, a variety of associated yellows—there is often a contrasting or surprising under painting, and Hughes’ color range overall is diverse and unusual. Thalo, Dioxazine, and Acra are powerful and luminous, yet these staining colors are so difficult to work with that most artists simply avoid them. But even when Hughes uses the more common Ultramarine or Siena—and he has a special way with white and gray—his color remains clear and brilliant because his command of paint, especially acrylic medium, used in alternating glazed and opaque areas, allows him to achieve the jewel-like, lapidary qualities found, for example, in Rembrandt, whom Hughes greatly admires.

Despite the many consistencies, however, examining works from the last four decades also reveals an enormous range of differences. From the 1970s to the 2000s paint washes and flows, drips and accumulates, cascades and veils, and splatters and frays.

Earlier works, such as 1973/ XI C 37 (Soft Red Flow), 1973, might be seen initially as a more traditional watercolor. Thinned washy red paint, paler along the sides and more densely filling the central field, flows down but not off of the paper. Deep red pigment collects along the central field’s outer borders which bow out towards the sides of the paper, creating a barrel-like shape that reads as both full and empty, solid and space. Are the paler vertical left and right edges simply background around this barrel shape, or are they like parted curtains swept back to reveal a scrim-like red, or a void? The subtle drawing Hughes achieves with color makes either situation possible.

On the surface of 1987-D III (Dk Blue Violet), 1987, a steady downpour of blue and violet runs down and builds up a dense thicket over a dark background. Small knobs and buds of acrylic collect and accumulate at the ends of thin streams. This crowded, compact image feels like a heavy force of nature, practically impermeable, but is transformed momentarily into something open and wondrous by the glaze-like layers of lustrous acrylic which catch and throw off color and light.

In 1990-D III (Cadmium Yellow), 1990, the streams of paint flow down and turn into veils and mist. Whereas the thick, downward pummel in 1987-D III (Dk Blue Violet) can feel impassable, 1990-D III (Cadmium Yellow) is soft and inviting; the darker of the yellows seem instead to rise up from the bottom as figure-like shapes, making the kind of space that one can enter, walk into, and through.

In the previous decades Hughes’ paint is applied at the canvas’ top and flows towards the bottom edge; continuing this in the 2000s, he also introduced the technique of throwing paint from the bottom to the top. A work such as 2004-D I (Jenkins Green), 2004, brings into play a new kind of physical, active engagement: the paint hits the surface, splatters, and fans out. The lush green, a glaze over a dark ground, has a crystalline or dendrite quality; that this green maintains its luminousness is a testament to Hughes’ mastery of acrylic paint.

Hughes’ works on paper are unusually finely crafted and finished. Each is resolved, whole, and complete. Unlike much current painting that is intentionally unfinished, as if leaving a conceptual rabbit hole, a corner of ambiguity, or a veneer of lack of commitment or faith, Hughes’ surfaces and edges are considered and integrated; they are seamless, classic, accomplished, and impeccable. Viewing his paintings, we confront consistency and purpose, beauty and rigor, and a magnificent color experience.

Chris Ashley
Oakland, CA
December 2010

 

PRESS

Paint Left to Its Own Devices. San Francisco Chronicle. December 23, 2010.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/12/22/DDMA1GL5EH.DTL
 

RESUME

Joseph Hughes (web site)

Exhibitions

Recent solo exhibitions include: Bergner + Job Galerie, Mainz, Germany; HDG Gallery, Wheeling, WV; George Lawson Gallery, San Francisco, CA; and Takada Gallery, San Francisco, CA.

Collections include: Kolumba Museum, Cologne, Germany; Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA; Antal-Lusztig Collection, Debrecen, Hungary; Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA; C.G. Jung Institutes, Los Angeles and San Francisco, CA.

See a complete biography, list of exhibitions, and bibliography at Joseph Hughes’ web site.

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